I want you to think 1999. I was sent to a "Prison For Profit" in Walsenburg, Colorado. When the prison bus began to slow down so it could exit I-25, a fellow convict nudged me, gestured with his chine and said, "That's Walsenburg". I looked west and saw an idyllic valley which had a sprinkling of houses. The house closest to the highway was beige brick. It had a wet back yard. It had a doghouse in the backyard. Tied to the doghouse was a goat. I groaned, big city Denver was a long way behind me. The same convict nudged me again and said, "There's the Prison." This time I looked the other way. Next to the highway, on the east side, was the Corrections Corporation of America (C.C.A.). It's pink in color.
I was there for a minute, boys and girls, a long fucking minute. During that time, I began to write a book tentatively titled, "Magik Beans". I was ignorant at the beginning of my writing career in as much as I thought a convict had to seek out permission to write. In this case, I was glad I had. I exchanged at least 4 kites with assistant Warden Kurtz in which I explained my intent to write a book about the rise and fall of a Methedrine Manufacturer's Life. I explained how my intent was to deter children from a life like mine, after all, I was there for manufacturing, who better to tell it? A.W. Kurtz answered every kite. Basically he said I didn't really need permission to write a book, that he also commended me for my subject and it's intent, and he made the law library's typewriters available to me as well. His condition was an autographed copy should i ever be published. Good guy, that Kurtz.
Okay, by now you know I write everything by hand. Typing isn't my bag, baby. I can and have done it, but it's a painful 3 finger hunt and peck method. I spend far more money on correction tape than I do multi-strike ribbon.
Six or seven months into writing my book, four CCA guards (The Offspring of several generations of goat headers without a doubt) came to mine and my bunkie's cell and carted off every single sheet of paper at the direction of Captain Roberts, a very very attractive Hispanic woman with a head full of snakes. (She'd later be fired for being caught on video tape kicking a cuffed convict as he lay on the ground grunting with each absorbed blow.) The next day everything was returned with the exception of (you guessed it) my book.
Naturally I was outraged and demanded the return of it. Captain Roberts told me that she thought there might be some security issues involved. (It remains a mystery how she even knew the book existed.) "Security issues?!," I cried, "How the fuck are there security issues when the book is taking place in 1977??!" Never the less she refused to return the nearly 250 pages of my work.
Next I approached A.W. Kurtz RE the book. No, he wasn't aware it had been confiscated. He and I began a bizarre odyssey trying to retrieve my writings. Captain Roberts avoided Kurtz on every front. Kurtz finally directed another Captain (whose name I forget) to personally return my book. As we were walking up the hill to the evidence/contraband room, this other Captain had the temerity to say, quote, "I've read your book, Katfish, and so far it's pretty good. If I give it back and it get's published, how much of the cut is mine.?"
I was astounded. I answered, "Zero."
At the E/C room the Captain went in while I waited outside. Approximately 3 to 4 minutes later he came out empty handed, shrugged his shoulders and declared the book "lost". I'd had enough of that boolshit, so I wrote a letter to the ACLU on Monday. I told them everything, and included copies of the kites Kurtz had answered giving me permission to write said book.
Friday night at 11:00pm, one full hour AFTER final lock-down my door popped and the speaker in my room told me to come down stairs. I thought it was a Urine Analysis. I've been giving random UA's since 1980 and have never ever tipped a hot one yet. I've got enough goddamned problems in prison w/o needing to add hot UA's to the list. Fuck 'em, they wanna spend money analyzing my piss, they can knock themselves out. Yeah, so anyways, I get down to the office and I find no less than six CCA Guards waiting. Six. Well, I thought to myself, this isn't the first time I've been mobbed by guards and/or police. I can usually get a couple good licks in before they get me down. At that point, on the ground, one can only curl into a tight ball and hope for the best. So I set my feet and let my eyes go flat so I could see everything in my peripheral vision.
"Mister Harris", said the night Captain who was seated at the desk. I turned 5 degrees to my left so I could see him too. And that's when I noticed the blue pocket folder on the desk in front of him. My blue folder. My missing book.
The Captain, a pretty honest and candid fella explained this to me:
Apparently at 9:00am or so that Friday morning, the Big Kahuna himself, Warden Luna, received a fax from the ACLU. Said fax informed Luna of my seeking permission to write a book of creative non-fiction, even though permission is not necessarily required, of receiving written permission from A.W. Kurtz to write said book. Then Captain Roberts confiscated said book, refused to return it, even at the direction of the A.W. When another captain was directed to return the book, this Captain wished to know what his cut would be if he returned the book and said book became published. The ACLU further explained they were in possession of the kites Kurtz and I had exchanged, and they demanded the return of my book. Should said book not be back in my hand by Monday nite 10:00pm, and proof of such faxed to the ACLU, then they would file on Captain Roberts, Warden Luna and C.C.A. for numerous violations at 7:00am Tuesday.
The Captain asked me to examine my book and make certain it was all there. While I inspected my book, noting a shitload of highlighted pages throughout, the Captain explained to me that Warden Luna had been caught unawares RE my situation, the fax from the ACLU being the first he'd heard about it. He was furious at every single officer involved, their duplicities incomprehensible. Once I ascertained my book was whole and undamaged, would I sign the document the Captain slid to me, said document simply acknowledging the return of my work. The six guards witnessed my signature.
The Captain sighed, then said something akin to not all guards were Power-trippers like Captain Roberts and her sycophants. He apologized and assured me it would not happen again because Warden Luna was now in the loop as well as the ACLU. I thanked him, picked up my book and went back to my cell.
"Well slap my ass and call me Nancy!", exclaimed my bunky, "we actually won one!!"
Indeed we had. Unfortunately we don't win enough of them. Nonetheless I learned that night (and in the subsequent weeks) that I can write whatever the fuck I want to as long as it's not a threat to the security of the nation, or prison, nor can I libel anyone (which I find ambiguous because I'm fucking positive the celebrity mags never have Britney or Jenn sign off on the ridiculous shit the mags publish). Let me pose this question: How can it be libel if it's true?
At any rate, TFTC has recently become so interesting even the DOJ is keeping an eye on us, waiting to see what we'll do or say next. They can save that Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum shit for someone else, I'm not buying. Every motherfucking chance I get I'm going to make The Great and Secret Show a little less great and a whole lot less secret.